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VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter January 2019

ABC’s latest casualty… casual staff underpayments

In a case that highlights the complexities of paying casual staff, the ABC has admitted to underpaying up to 2500 casual employees over six years.

Their Chief People Officer, Rebekah Donaldson, apologised and promised the ABC would remedy the situation.

“A detailed review is underway to confirm how penalties, allowances and loadings should have been calculated and applied over the past six years to about 2500 ‘flat-rate’ casual staff,” she said.

The ABC was notified about the underpayment issue by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU). The ABC then notified the Fair Work Ombudsman about it.

This comes after the ABC confirmed last month that they had underpaid one casual staff member $19,000 over three years following a CPSU complaint.

The ABC Section Secretary at the CPSU, Sinddy Ealy, said she expected the broadcaster will face a hefty bill for the under-payments.

“If there are 2500 people affected and one individual with three years’ employment under their belt was owed $19,000, we’re anticipating the liability to be sizeable,” she said.

“We’ve had concerns about the ABC’s over-reliance on and payment of casual workers for years. As recently as 2016 the CPSU was assured by the ABC that it was paying casual employees in accordance with the terms and conditions of the ABC staff agreement. Clearly that’s not the case,” said Ealy.

The ABC isn’t alone in mismanaging casual staff payments. Last September, David Leslie Hinchcliffe was ordered to pay $25,000 by the Federal Circuit Court for underpaying three casual employees. His company was also required to pay $119,000 after the FWO took legal action.

The Court found Hinchcliffe and his company had:

  • Failed to make any payments for various periods of employment
  • Did not make and keep employee records
  • Didn’t provide payslips to the workers and
  • Failed to comply with a notice to produce records or documents

If large companies with dedicated HR teams (like the ABC) are making costly errors in calculating casual staff payments, how is your business faring? Don’t risk getting caught in a case with the FWO – contact The HR Dept for accurate and up-to-date advice on conditions and pay for casuals.

Bad behaviour. Could zero-tolerance help defence of unfair dismissal claim?

It seems that a zero-tolerance policy is your best bet when dealing with staff behaving badly.

Recently, the Fair Work Commission threw out an unfair dismissal case raised by an employee who was fired following repeated breaches of her workplace’s policies.

The dismissal centred on a May 2018 argument about office temperature, in which the employee suggested her supervisor had “natural, extra padding”. This followed two previous formal warnings about her conduct and being sent home on several prior occasions.

The company welcomed the FWC’s decision, saying, “ORC International values a respectful working environment and does not tolerate bullying, discrimination or harassment in its workplace.”

And with new research showing that “workplace incivility” – like rudeness and disrespect – can cause lost sleep for people dealing with mean co-workers, there’s even more reason to nip nastiness in the bud.

Contact the HR Dept for advice and assistance in writing policies that encourage a positive workplace culture. We can also assist by providing professional advice on how to deal with inappropriate staff behaviour.

Biased robots- the pitfalls of AI in recruitment

Everyone has unconscious biases and these can impact on our ability to conduct fair and accurate job interviews.

To overcome this issue, systems using AI (Artificial Intelligence) to determine candidate suitability are being explored.

While it might seem like a machine should be able to make an unbiased judgment, things are more complicated. A study at the University of Melbourne, for example, highlighted how easily AI could discriminate and make incorrect assessments.

Researcher Dr Niels Wouters created a “biometric mirror” – a computer algorithm which analyses personality traits and temperament based on characteristics in a photograph. The research then compared data from the perceptions of a large group of people reviewing thousands of other faces.

Wouters says the project illustrates how technology can be used to make assumptions that impact people’s careers.

“For instance, you might be perceived as aggressive or irresponsible and thus be denied a highly desired promotion or even rejected for an interview,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Imagine having no control over how these algorithms are used to rule you out for management positions.”

The serious risk of bias for employers using such technology was highlighted in 2017, when Amazon was forced to abandon research into an Artificial Intelligence recruiting tool after learning it was discriminating against women.

Amazon realised its system was favouring male candidates for software development and other technical roles because it was observing that most resumes came from men. In addition, programmers couldn’t guarantee the AI wouldn’t teach itself other discriminatory selection practices.

Recruiting the best person for your position is complex. If you are unsure how to fairly assess candidates prior to or during interviews, contact The HR Dept for expert advice.

How to stop your star performers from jumping ship

Retaining good staff is a key issue for HR leaders. With an average cost of $22,135 to replace existing staff, it makes even better business sense. But new research shows almost two in five employees (37%) are casually or actively seeking new opportunities. A similar number would consider changing employers if approached.

The Ceridian 2018 Pulse of Talent report showed that 37% of employees are likely to move on because of the financial offer, while 39% are looking for new career challenges.

Lisa Sterling, Chief People and Culture Officer at Ceridian, said “the real reason a person becomes a flight risk is because employers fail to focus on addressing career growth and development”.

She suggests companies wanting to retain their star employees should emphasise how their contributions make a difference.

The HR Dept can advise you on strategies for attracting and retaining great staff for your business.


CEO seeks champagne-quality PA on beer budget

In a job ad that recently went viral, a 28-year-old “entrepreneur” promised applicants the “most challenging” and “most rewarding position  you’ve ever had”.

Okay so far, but … it goes on to say that candidates will be held personally responsible for “making the CEO look good, feel good and perform at a higher level”.

Despite the position being part-time, candidates should “expect after hours and weekend calls” and includes an exhaustive list of tasks to perform – from “coffee to contract execution”.

Don’t make the same mistake. Use The HR Dept to craft a job advertisement that is engaging and appropriate.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter December 2018

Important changes to flexible working requests

At the start of December, important changes to flexible working requests were made by the Fair Work Commission. Under the new rules, employers must make a genuine attempt to reach agreement with eligible employees requesting flexible working arrangements. These requests can only be refused on reasonable business grounds.

Eligible employees need to make a written request explaining what changes are being asked for and why.

Once employers receive the request, they must discuss it with their employee and try to reach an agreement about the changes. Employers need to consider the employee’s needs, the consequences for them if changes aren’t made and any reasonable business grounds for refusing the request.

A written response to the request must be provided within 21 days. If the request is refused, this response must include reasons for the refusal.

Employers can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds, which include:

  • The requested arrangements will be too costly for the business to implement
  • An inability to change other employees’ working arrangements to accommodate the request
  • It’s impractical to change other employees’ arrangements or hire new staff to accommodate the request
  • The request would result in significant loss of productivity or have a significantly negative impact on customer service


Examples of flexible working arrangements include changes to working hours, location or work patterns (e.g. split shifts).

Employees (except casuals) who have worked for at least 12 months with the same employer can ask for flexible working arrangements for various reasons, such as caring for a child who is school-aged or younger, being a carer, experiencing family or domestic violence and many others.

Casual employees can also request flexible working arrangements if they’ve been with the same employer for at least 12 months and expect to continue working for them.

Employers agreeing to flexible working arrangements need to think about ways to ensure performance is not compromised and how performance will be monitored. They might also need to deal with situations where flexible working arrangements are causing problems.

The HR Dept are experts in negotiating flexible working arrangements. Contact them for advice about how to deal with the changes or if you’re unsure how to proceed when a request is received.


Prepare now for a sweltering summer

Australia is set to sweat through a long, hot summer, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting an 80% chance of higher-than-normal temperatures between December and February in most states.

With an El Niño likely to form before the end of 2018, the chance of even warmer conditions across eastern Australia is now estimated to be triple the normal risk.

It’s important for employers to understand the heightened risk associated with heatwave conditions and how they might impact your staff. For example, extreme heat can negatively affect the well-being of pregnant women or staff with certain medical conditions.

You need to support your staff though the heat by ensuring air-conditioning systems are working effectively and providing cool water. It may also be appropriate to modify the workplace dress code to help staff remain comfortable and productive.

The HR Dept can advise on appropriate ways to support your staff and business through a sweltering summer. So call us for advice.


Tips for a disaster-free Christmas shindig

While everyone’s been to a work Christmas party where someone’s got drunk and done something stupid, nobody wants to see their staff top Santa’s naughty list at the office bash.

Workers love to see their bosses relax the reins a little, but the last thing any employer wants to deal with is a party disaster.

Some potential pitfalls of allowing things to get out of control include:

  • Wrecked reputations – if an intoxicated colleague overshares it can have disastrous personal and professional fallout
  • Property or personal damage – no employer wants to deal with equipment that gets broken in a revelry, let alone someone getting injured
  • Unlawful behaviour – crimes committed during work events include drink driving, theft and sexual assault
  • Loss of life – it sounds extreme, but accidents do happen and people have died during work functions

Employers can minimise risk by laying down some ground rules for Christmas party etiquette as well as being prepared to deal swiftly with any inappropriate behaviour.

Explain to your team in the lead up to the party that you want them to have fun, but that doesn’t mean dropping the professional standards. Leaders should keep a lookout for any behaviour breeches and intervene when necessary.

Serving alcohol responsibly, and with food, can help reduce the chances of people making poor choices while intoxicated. You might also want to plan how to get any inebriated team members home safely.

If you’re going all-out with your end-of-year do (like one company that’s flying its workers for an all-expenses paid trip to Thailand) then you’ll have even more considerations around staff safety.

However your business will be celebrating Christmas, contact the HR Dept to ensure it’s memorable for all the right reasons.


Robots rule at Amazon this Christmas

You might have heard of Amazon box robots. Well this Christmas, the e-commerce giant is using real ones to keep up with seasonal demand.

Amazon are planning to hire 100,000 temporary workers over the holiday shopping period – 20,000 fewer than for 2016 and 2017. Instead, the online retailer will be relying more heavily on automation and the use of robots in their facilities.

These advanced tech solutions were first implemented a few years ago, and are making Amazon “more efficient”, internet analyst Mark May told CNBC.

In 2016, a Quartz report claimed that one Amazon warehouse robot took 15 minutes to sort, carry, pack, and ship items – tasks which a human worker apparently required an hour to complete.

Although Amazon are hiring fewer seasonal staff, they are reportedly focused on hiring full-time employees for their fulfilment centres and other facilities.


Want motivated workers? The answer lies in simple things

Reducing employee turnover is good for business but what can companies do about it? Recent research by Reward Gateway reveals some interesting answers.

A bad manager tops the workplace demotivating list at 46% followed by feeling invisible or undervalued at 43%.

74% of workers also believed their managers should do more to inspire them.

The results show simple things can make the biggest difference to employee motivation. For men, receiving a bonus improves their long-term motivation while for women it’s being shown appreciation for their work.

Contact the HR Dept for professional advice about building a healthy and motivated team.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter November 2018

Discrepancy between CEO earnings and average salaries sparks protests

If you discovered your company’s top dog was earning 435 times more than you, you’d probably be barking mad. That scenario is real and happening in Australia. Recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the salary of Domino’s Pizza CEO, Don Meij, was almost 435 times that of the average Australian worker.

Mr Meij rakes in serious dough – $36.84 million to be exact – compared to the average full-time Australian salary of $84,661.20 per year.

Furthermore, research from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) found that 8 in 10 Australian workers haven’t had a pay increase that kept up with rising living costs in the last 12 months. In the same period, almost half of all Australian workers received no pay increase at all.

In October, nationwide rallies started with the organisers aiming to highlight “exorbitant CEO pay” and company profits compared to the “very low or non-existent” pay rises of many Australians.

We’re sick to death of CEOs telling low-paid workers they need a pay cut,” the ACTU posted on Twitter. “It’s time to give working people the tools they need to secure fair pay rises.”

Mr Meij isn’t the only one earning big dollars. The country’s top 100 CEOs have received an average annual pay increase of 12.4%.

Working people have had enough of businesses taking obscene profits and CEOs making exorbitant salaries at the expense of the pay rises and job security we need to get ahead of the cost of living,” ACTU secretary Sally McManus said at the Melbourne rally.

Thousands of workers have attended rallies, with the last one having been held in Canberra on 20 November.

However, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has said unions are misinforming their members.

According to a report in the Guardian, ACCI’s chief executive James Pearson, said the “ACTU’s campaign is really about putting power into the hands of big unions, disempowering employees, and removing their choices.”

Negotiating wages that are fair and commensurate with workers’ skills and experience can be tricky. The HR Dept can give you accurate and confidential advice about fair wages and pay increases.


Work-life balance concept outdated in contemporary workplaces

“Work-life balance” has been a buzz phrase for years, but a new report shows the concept is outdated.

Researchers noted that “work” is based on the idea of permanent full-time employment – which is increasingly less common with the rise of part-time, contract and gig work.

“Life” usually relates to childcare responsibilities, but “people may want to balance work with pursuing education or religious responsibilities … or simply other activities or hobbies,” Curtin Business School associate professor Julia Richardson told HR Daily.

She says employers must consider the needs of individual employees if they want a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Neglecting the environment may drive away customers, but neglecting people’s lives may drive away key members of the workforce,” wrote management guru Charles Handy.

Ensuring employees have a happy work-life balance will not only protect your workers’ wellbeing – it’s best for business. Contact the HR Dept for help with getting the balance right.


Union push for sexual harassment to come under Fair Work Act

Employers could soon be obligated to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

There is talk that Unions NSW plan to call for legislative changes that would see sexual harassment treated as a health and safety issue because companies are currently not obligated to prevent their workers from being harassed.

The reality is, sexual harassment has a terrible impact on people’s health,” said Unions NSW Assistant Secretary, Emma Maiden. “We’ve seen it with the #MeToo movement, so there’s no doubt there should be an onus on employers to provide a workplace that is free from sexual harassment.”

The call comes in response to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s national workplace sexual harassment survey, which showed that 25% of women and 16% of men have experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment in the past 12 months.

However, fewer than 1 in 5 people who were sexually harassed at work in the past 5 years made a complaint. Of those who did, 19% were labelled as troublemakers, 18% were ostracised or victimised by colleagues and 17% resigned.

Unions NSW want to see changes incorporated into industrial law. Then “unions (or groups of workers) could take complaints of sexual harassment, and failures by employers to address the problem, to the Fair Work Commission – an easy-to-access, no-cost jurisdiction.”

It’s in every employer’s interests to have policies that support their employees and maintain a harassment-free workplace.

Sexual harassment is a complex issue and laws are rapidly changing. Contact the HR Dept for up-to-date advice on developing workplace policies that address the issue and how best to handle any concerns.


Social media proving a snare for some businesses

Don’t be fooled into thinking social media conundrums are reserved for social interactions. Two recent claims to the Fair Work Commission prove otherwise.

Both cases revolved around claims of unfair dismissal. One involved a supervisor who posted offensive and threatening messages about a subordinate on Facebook, causing her distress and concern for her safety.

The other involved an OHS representative at a mine who posted on Facebook that “work shifts are off” over the Christmas holidays, without being authorised to do so. This led to significant confusion among employees who had volunteered to work during the break.

In both cases, the FWC ruled that dismissal was justified, but they highlight the importance of companies having social media policies that clarify expectations and explain consequences for failing to observe them.

The HR Dept can help you develop a comprehensive social media policy to protect your business and staff.


Yoga, naps and unlimited leave – workplace perks from top employers

Nap pods, onsite yoga and free cooking classes. It might sound like a health retreat, but it’s actually the perks some companies offer employees.

Google, Netflix, Virgin and others are providing these perks to help secure – and keep – the best talent. It seems to be working!

Businesses offering wellbeing perks and flexibility are topping LinkedIn’s list of companies Australians most want to work for.

Creating a culture where employees can discuss their needs for flexibility, along with prioritising their wellbeing, helps businesses attract great staff and reduce turnover.

Contact The HR Dept for personalised advice.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter October 2018

Senate inquiry says Fair Work Act is unfit for future

Australia’s Fair Work Act is at least ten years behind where it should be, thanks to the rapid rise of “non-standard” workers and technological change, according to a Senate committee report published last month.

The inquiry into the future of work in Australia concluded that significant reform and improved planning is needed to address growing workforce inequality.

A key problem area is “non-standard work” which includes people employed on a casual, temporary, on-call, labour hire and gig basis. The committee found that while these practices are now commonplace, they circumvent the traditional employer/employee relationship that has been the foundation of Australia’s workforce.

Furthermore, this type of work is frequently associated with low wages and limited access to entitlements like sick leave, holiday pay and superannuation, the report says.

Another issue raised was the “suboptimal” consultation by employers on technological change affecting employees. The report noted that under current laws, workers may not be able to negotiate collectively on the impacts of such change in their workplaces.

The committee recommended that Australia:

  • Reform the definition of ‘employment’, including broadening the term to capture gig economy workers.
  • Improve the superannuation rights of non-standard workers, abolish the $450 minimum threshold for superannuation contributions, improve access to flexible working and implement a portable leave scheme.
  • Reform the labour-hire industry with a licensing scheme, a test for owners/directors of labour hire companies, a transparent fee structure, penalties for using unlicensed labour-hire firms and giving labour-hire workers the same wages and conditions as employees.
  • Strengthen bargaining power and consultation requirements for workers and unions, including requirements for employers to consult with workers and trade unions before introducing major technological change.
  • Introduce a new government body and a plan to address workforce changes.

The committee was largely comprised of Labor senators, with a dissenting report released by Liberal National Senators saying it “turned the inquiry into a union directed Labor election campaign exercise.”

Concerned about how these workplace law changes might affect your business? The HR Dept can help ensure you stay on top of all your legal requirements.


Want to keep your workers happy? Lighten up!

While some workplaces go all out to keep their people happy – think gyms, unlimited caffeine and bring-your-fur-baby-to-work days – the solution may be far simpler. Recent research reported in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) found access to natural light trumped these “modern day” perks.

This might seem a no-brainer if you’ve toiled under harsh flickering fluoros, but the benefits are backed by studies showing a connection between natural light and employee wellbeing.

The HBR reported that 47% of employees admit feeling tired from a lack of natural light, while 43% say it makes them feel gloomy.

This study found optimising natural light improves workers’ wellbeing significantly – those with daylight office environments reported a 51% reduction in eyestrain, 63% lower incidence of headaches and 56% less drowsiness.

Letting some light in could provide the boost your workers need.

The HR Dept are experts on employee satisfaction and productivity. Contact us to discuss ways to enhance the wellness of your workforce.


Why denying flexible work requests may land you in court

Australian employers will soon be forced to justify denying requests for flexible working arrangements, under changes to modern awards to be implemented by the Fair Work Commission.

Under the changes, employers must “genuinely try to reach an agreement on a change in working arrangements”, the Commission said in its decision.

The new rules will require employers to consider an employee’s individual circumstances, the consequences if changes are not made and alternative arrangements if a flexible work request is denied.

Workers will have the right to mount a legal challenge if an employer fails to adequately consider their request and provide a detailed written explanation about the business grounds for refusal.

The Commission said its decision was a response to “significant unmet employee needs for flexible working arrangements” in Australia, where about 25% of workers were unhappy with their working arrangements.

An exact date for the implementation of the change has not been set.

While the decision might seem like another burden for business owners, a report by Smart Company suggests seeing it as an opportunity to “future-proof” your business. Millennials are predicted to represent 75% of the workforce by 2025 and a Deloitte study shows 75% of them consider a “work from home” policy important. So this could be the catalyst to make some changes that will benefit your workers and your business.

Many businesses don’t have an HR department to manage these employee issues. But The HR Dept is dedicated to understanding them for you. Contact us to discuss how to use changes like these to build a better business.


Asleep on the job? Problem affecting 40% of Australians

If you’re yawning while reading this, you could be one of almost 40% of Australians getting inadequate sleep, as reported in a Sleep Health Foundation study.

For many, anxiety over sleeplessness is compounding the problem – adding to their difficulty in drifting off.

Another study explored the sleeping habits of almost 400 business leaders and found this “generally sleep-deprived population” were experiencing sleeping problems due to their inability to switch off from work.

This study also found evidence that respondents associated sleep loss with productivity and success, a “common yet faulty” notion in which sleep deprivation is expected in ambitious leaders.

If drowsy leaders aren’t enough, the implications of having exhausted staff driving or operating machinery could bring new meaning to the adage “you snooze, you lose.”

Efficiency and productivity don’t have to come at the sacrifice of sleep. Talk to The HR Dept about better ways of doing it.


Angry panda helping stressed Japanese workers

The Japanese have come up with a novel approach to dealing with the daily difficulties at work – Retsuko, a 25-year-old cartoon panda.

It is hoped Japanese viewers will identify with Retsuko as she vents her workplace frustrations. It’s another step in helping with Japan’s problem of karoshi – death from overwork.

Recently, a Japanese chairman resigned to take responsibility for the death of Matsuri Takahashi, a 24-year-old employee who took her own life after complaining about excessive working hours.

You don’t need to become a cartoonist to look after your employees. Contact The HR Dept for advice.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter September

Pizza chain cheats 20 workers out of hard-earned dough

Domino’s have broken a new record, but it’s not a record good businesses will want to emulate. The Fair Work Ombudsman has issued Australia’s largest pizza chain with 17 formal cautions, following an audit of 33 stores over a one-month period.

Breaches of workplace law were found in 19 stores after inspectors interviewed 144 Domino’s workers and analysed 874 employee records. They discovered 20 workers had been underpaid a total of $1,978 in that month, along with other breaches such as non-payment for:

  • Hours worked
  • Delivery allowances
  • Leave entitlements
  • Unauthorised deductions and
  • Record keeping breaches

The findings have prompted the Fair Work Ombudsman to call upon Domino’s head office to take action as the results indicate systemic issues in the franchise. “It’s in head office’s best interests to set clear expectations with their stores, provide them with comprehensive training, support and regularly check that workplace laws are complied with,” Fair Work Ombudsman, Sandra Parker said.

Ms Parker explained that recent law changes mean franchisors can now be held liable for workplace breaches by businesses within their networks.

Investigations are ongoing with only four stores found to be fully compliant with workplace laws, while ten non-compliant stores are owned by one franchisee.

It’s not the first time this has happened. “The Fair Work Ombudsman has worked with Domino’s head office for several years to try to promote a culture of workplace compliance,” Ms Parker said. “While Domino’s have made some improvements to their processes, they should be closely monitoring their stores to ensure employees are being paid correctly.”

Receiving a formal caution puts a business on notice that future non-compliance could result in fines.

Ms Parker said the Fair Work Commission will “continue to closely monitor Domino’s across its network by responding to requests for assistance and assessing any intelligence we receive.”

Fair Work will undertake further compliance assessments of Domino’s within 12 months, including unannounced site visits.

Are you completely confident your business is compliant with Fair Work regulations?

Don’t take the risk! Your local HR Dept professional can help ensure you stay on the right side of workplace law. Contact them today.

The new Japanese cure for Monday-itis

The Japanese are known for inventions – think robots, reliable cars and karaoke – but their latest is a pearler. In a novel approach to improving work-life balance, Japanese workers could soon be taking Monday mornings off.

Named “Shining Mondays”, the proposal from the ministry of economy forms part of a broader plan to reduce employees’ overtime and deal with karoshi – death by overwork.

Under the proposal, employers will let staff clock on after lunch on Monday once a month. It will complement Premium Fridays, where staff finish early on the last Friday of each month.

Australians might not be suffering death by overwork just yet, but statistics from a 2017 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show we are struggling to achieve work-life balance. In fact we rank in the bottom third of OECD countries for working longer hours.

To find practical solutions for better work-life balance for you and your staff, contact The HR Dept.


Get more motion in your meetings (minus the risk)

Meetings may not be renowned for generating momentum, but a Sydney shared workspace is getting theirs on the move.

As part of “Step-tember” – an initiative encouraging people to take 10,000 steps every day in September – WeWork in George Street, Sydney ditched boardroom chairs in favour of treadmills.

Instead of sitting for meetings, staff walked or jogged in an approach aimed at getting people more active and increasing workplace productivity.

This seems to make perfect sense, given the strong evidence that good employee health and wellbeing boosts overall organisational health.

But…. what if someone sprained their ankle, or had a heart attack?

Workplace wellness programs need to be developed in light of Workplace Health and Safety regulations.

Contact the HR Dept to discuss ways to help your staff stay well while maintaining compliance with risk management and workplace safety.


How does investing in lifelong learning make smart business sense?

Just because your employees have the qualifications they need to do the work doesn’t mean they should stop learning.

Lifelong learning has proven to be the key to not just a sustainable workforce, but a profitable business. Research has found that companies offering structured training have an average 218% lower staff turnover rate and 24% higher profit margin.

While getting outside experts to run training is great, many companies already have an inbuilt multi-generational pool of knowledge waiting to be utilised.

Tim Reed, CEO of MYOB, says age is no barrier to learning. Rather, he sees incredible potential in his older workforce. In speaking with HRM, he says, “Knowledge is key in our business, and it’s built over time, so people who’ve been with us for a long period are some of our most precious resources.”

He even has a great grandmother on his team who has continued to thrive because she has never stopped learning.

Thinking ahead is vital when developing training. Reed recommends business leaders use foresight to figure out where skills-gaps might occur five years down the track so they can start training their existing people for those gaps now.

Future-proofing staff can reduce the risk of having major workforce challenges. And given that 7 out of 10 employees say that opportunities for training influences their decision to stay in the job, investing in training is a cost-effective way to keep your people.

The HR Dept offers training courses on a range of topics all designed to help your business thrive. The lessons learned will be invaluable to your staff. Contact us to find out what we offer and how you can benefit.

Can you dismiss staff for out-of-hours conduct?

An ex-Qantas employee has paid dearly for an alleged boozy binge with the Fair Work Commission backing the airline’s decision to fire him.

Flight attendant, Luke Urso, recently lost his unfair dismissal claim. He apparently consumed excessive alcohol while on what is called “slip time” – the time between flights.

Problems started when he collapsed, was hospitalised and recorded a blood-alcohol reading of .205. Urso was unable to work the following day and was suspended on pay during an investigation before Qantas dismissed him.

Because Urso’s employment was considered a “safety critical role”, his actions out-of-hours impaired his ability to safely conduct his job, legitimising his dismissal. Therefore the Fair Work Commission concluded his dismissal was not disproportionate to the gravity of the misconduct.

Unfair dismissal rules are complex – especially with staff out-of-hours behaviour. For reliable advice and assistance, contact The HR Dept.


NT auditor-general uncovers raft of expensive errors

A Northern Territory public servant has been overpaid nearly $500,000 thanks to a misplaced dot. Instead of $4,921.76, they were paid $492,176. This was one of over 700 overpayments made by NT government departments which were highlighted in a report by the auditor-general.

Further checks revealed one worker had accrued 4,775 hours (about $400,000 worth) of paid leave.

These findings emphasise the necessity of monitoring wages, leave entitlements and the need to deal swiftly with any issue.

The HR Dept can help you put strategies in place to make sure you avoid any expensive wage or entitlement errors. Contact them for professional advice.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter August 2018

New family and domestic violence leave entitlements – all you need to know

In recognising the serious and widespread problem of family and domestic violence in Australia, the Fair Work Commission has updated awards to include a new leave entitlement.

Family, domestic and sexual violence are a major welfare issue. Recent statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare have shown that violence by an intimate partner causes more illness, disability and deaths than any other risk factor for women aged 25–44.

Nor are men immune, with one man each month being killed by a current or former partner in the two years from 2012–14.

The new clause will allow most employees to take five days of unpaid leave to deal with family and domestic violence. It’s aimed to empower victims to seek the help they need, without threatening their work situation. It took effect on 1 August 2018.

Employees can use the leave to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence, including things like making arrangements for their own (or a loved one’s) safety and attending court hearings.

Some of the key things you need to know about the leave include:

  • It will apply to all employees, including casuals
  • The full five days will be available to all employees, regardless of whether they work full-time, part-time or casual (in other words, it is not pro rata for part-time or casual employees)
  • It will be available in full at the start of each 12-month period – rather than accruing over a year of service
  • It will not accrue from one year to the next

There are some exceptions to the entitlements, such as enterprise awards. If an employment contract or workplace policy provides less than the minimum entitlement in the applicable award, the award entitlement still applies.

The HR Dept can help you understand the implications of the new leave entitlements for your business and work with you to ensure you comply with implementing them.

For further advice on ensuring victims of family and domestic violence in your workplace can receive their entitlements without unnecessary business disruption, contact The HR Dept today.



Essential tips for a happy and healthy workforce

It’s no secret that mentally healthy workers are more productive. Promoting good mental health is not just a nice thing to do – it’s a smart business decision.

The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance was established in 2013 to encourage – and provide resources for – mentally healthy workplaces.

Their suggestions for managers include:

  • Using online resources to educate your employees about mental health
  • Speak openly about mental health in the workplace and encourage others to do the same
  • Communicate your commitment to privacy and equal opportunity
  • Develop a mental health and wellbeing policy
  • Minimise workplace risks to mental health, such as job stress
  • If you are concerned about an employee, have a conversation with them

Contact The HR Dept for advice on making your business a mentally healthy one.



Manager’s email goes viral (for all the wrong reasons)

Ever dreamed of having your emails to employees go viral? It happened to one Sydney boss, for all the wrong reasons.

The outrageous outburst by Marcus Wood, the director of Mars Recruiting, was reported in The Guardian.

Wood’s email to staff included a rant about under performing staff “getting on my tits” and threatening they would have their “sorry asses fired and slung out the door in under 3 months”.

After confessing he was the author of the self-described “Gordon Ramsay meets Donald Trump-style email rant”, Woods claims to have learned from the experience after the leaked email went viral.

Moral of this story – if you want to avoid making a public apology (or winding up in court), think before you press send.

When staff performance issues get you down, don’t deal with it yourself. Contact The HR Dept for help.



What to do when an employee doesn’t return from holidays?

Everybody looks forward to their annual holiday. So much so that some find it a struggle to return to work and the routine of everyday life afterwards. But if an employee heads off on holiday never to be seen, or heard from again, this could be abandonment of employment at the employee’s initiative.

As an employer, how will you know that an employee has abandoned their employment?

It can be hard to prove as there could be many viable reasons as to why they have not returned to work. Abandonment of employment can usually be concluded when an employee’s actions (or inactions) indicate that they do not wish to return to work.

A lack of communication on the employee’s part can make this a cloudy situation. So you will want to make sure you have followed all the necessary steps before concluding the employee has no intention of ever returning to work.

Before you choose the dismissal route, it’s worth noting that all employees are protected against unfair termination under the Fair Work Act. So, to cover yourself, you’ll want to be sure that you made every effort to clarify the situation before making any risky assumptions.

There are a series of steps that you must follow before concluding abandonment of employment:

  1. Consider the circumstances of the absence, including its length and the reasons surrounding it. Has the employee tried to make contact?
  2. Attempt to make contact with the employee. Try calling or emailing the employee and keep a record of attempted contact.
  3. Send a letter. Explain via letter that the employee is taking unauthorised absence and that an explanation of absence is required. Set a date for the employee to respond or report to work by, otherwise employment abandonment may be accepted.
  4. Repeat the previous steps to show every effort has been made to communicate with the absent employee.
  5. Send a final letter. If no contact has been made by the employee after following the above steps, send a signed for letter which clearly determines that after several attempts to contact the employee, you have accepted they have abandoned their employment.


For advice on what to do if the employee responds, or to check the process against a specific award, call your local expert at The HR Dept.



Is your Fair Work statement up to date?

With updates to the Fair Work Statement every year, keeping on top of yours can be a hassle.

The Statement forms part of the National Employment Standards (NES) and gives employees a clear framework for understanding their employment.

A vital part of the Fair Work Statement is the National Employment Standards. These outline ten mandatory employment standards that must be given to every employee, regardless of their award, contract type or contract length.

WorkPro – an online platform for managing workforce compliance – enables you to deliver the Fair Work Statement as a mandatory online task for your worker to read and accept. It also records their response.

WorkPro also automatically updates the Statement each year, making it a quick and easy way of ensuring compliance.

The HR Dept offers WorkPro so speak to us about how it can streamline the key aspects of your workplace compliance.



More work in less time? Lessons from the four-day week

While most employees dream of working less without sacrificing income, one New Zealand company made this a reality. The company’s founder had the idea for the trial after reading that workplace productivity could be as low as one-and-a-half hours per day.

The results were surprising. Not only was job performance maintained (even increased) over four days, stress was reduced by 7% and work/life balance improved by 24%. Job engagement and satisfaction also increased.

The four-day week may not be for everyone but offering flexible work arrangements can be a great start towards achieving the same outcomes.